Archive for the ‘Vision’ Category

When I was around twenty years old, I began searching for a purpose in life. I wasn’t satisfied with the reason handed me by my family and society. This purpose was to make a good living, get married, raise three kids, do some good in the community and die.  I was not excited.

Therefore, I searched for meaning for six long years. I sought career success, marriage, fun, popularity, and advanced education. Even though I did attain some success, I still wasn’t satisfied with a compelling reason for being alive. I felt frustrated! Maybe I was chasing fantasies and there was no satisfying reason for my existence?

Then, at twenty-six, I was challenged to consider finding purpose in a relationship with God. I got excited about being involved in a giant rescue mission to help people find meaning in life through following Jesus. Therefore, I gladly accepted the challenge of becoming his disciple. I have never regretted this decision. Living for God’s will has brought me purpose for the past forty-six years.

But living for God is vague and we need the details of how it looks in everyday life. For example, I am entering a new stage where I need a fresh vision. I sense I am drifting a bit and not clearly focused on specific goals God wants to do through me. To help me clarify my purpose, I am reading and applying Andy Stanley’s book Visioning.

I feel sad many of us live much of our lives without a satisfying reason to live. This is what happened to the wisest man who ever lived. Solomon had this to say about life, “It is all meaningless—like chasing the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14) After pursuing every activity imaginable, he had this to say about purpose, “Fear God and obey his commandments, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, whether good or bad” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). Only when he connected his busyness to God’s purposes did he find meaning. Solomon was wise but did not practice wisdom for much of his life.

But how do we find God’s purposes for our lives?

First, we need to realize God had reasons for creating us. He says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared so that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, NAS).

As we journey with God through life, he reveals step-by-step what these works are. My works several years ago included working for the County to support my family, being a godly husband, raising my kids to be what God wanted them to be, and serving the church as an elder. Today, except for being a godly husband, all the works have changed.

We need to be careful to not pursue activities just because they feel good or others are impressed. When we don’t receive positive feedback, we can be deceived into thinking we don’t have much purpose.

I have struggled with this in recent years. The works God has given me have not given the feedback from others and myself for me to feel consistently important, loved, and safe. I have trusted more in this feedback than in what God thinks, which is “You are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you” Isaiah 43:4).

Four years ago, I came close to dying from an aortic aneurism. But I didn’t die. In a vision, God told me why. He said, “You didn’t die because I am not through working in you and through you.” Wow! I am important.

As long as we are alive we have a purpose to God for being here. We just need to discover what it is and live it out. May we choose to follow him as he leads us to finish his purposes.

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Do You Like Your Job?

I didn’t like the job that God seemed to be leading me into. I wanted to be a missionary but I had just been offered a good job with county government. My leader had interpreted this as God’s will for me to work in a secular job instead of working for his missionary organization. But I felt very disappointed. I didn’t think the job would be as exciting or important as being a missionary.

I suffered for two years with feeling that my career was inferior to being a full-time Christian worker – until I read the book, Secular Worker is Full-Time Service. The book explained that whatever job God leads us into, it is important work. A missionary’s work is not more important than doing a government job. We are all God’s representatives to the people at our jobs and to those who benefit from our labor. We further God’s work in the world by doing our jobs well, even if they are secular.

After reading this book I felt better. I had peace. I embraced my new career and stayed with it for 34 years. Although my career may not have been as desirable as being a missionary, it was what God wanted to do.

Part of the problem with our jobs is that we often use them to try to meet needs that they were never been designed to meet. We seek a fulfillment and meaning that our jobs will never provide. Unless they are connected to God’s purposes, they will lack meaning and satisfaction.

However, in my experience, I feel his joy and peace when I sense he is using me in my job. The honor and respect we get from people through our job achievements will never match the love, respect, and acceptance we get from God from just being his sons or daughters. We can learn to be content in our secular jobs resting in what God thinks of us rather than depending on what others think.

We must see our jobs from God’s perspective. Every job that God leads us to do has an important purpose in God’s plan of revealing himself and rescuing people from Satan’s control.

When we see our jobs as our way to serve God, it takes on more meaning than just putting bread on the table. Also, I have found that any job can be made more fulfilling by doing a good job. I feel satisfied out of doing the simplest projects well.

As I reflect on my secular career, I see how God has used the experience to make me more like himself. The tedious tasks developed patience, the difficult assignments developed courage, and the overwhelming projects developed humility.  The times I wasn’t promoted produced endurance, the times of success produced confidence in God’s goodness, and the times of obscurity produced greater dependence on God’s high opinion of me instead of what others think.

As the Psalmist says, “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked” (Psalm 84:10, NLT). May we accept that God’s choice of our job is better than having any other job. We can then expect to experience joy and peace for doing his assignment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Is That All There Is?

Many years ago, singer Peggy Lee asked the question, “Is that all there is?” in a song. From my memory, these are some lines from that song:

 

Is that all there is? Is that all there is?

If that’s all there is, my friend, then let’s keep dancing.

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.

If that’s all, …there is.

 

It is a sad and hopeless song that saw the meaninglessness of life.

But, is that all there is?

No! Life was intended to be an exciting adventure following God. I discovered this at the age of 26 after I had failed to find sufficient meaning in a career, education, romance, and pleasure seeking.

Several years ago, I wondered if the discipleship I offered men could be deeper. I wondered if I could learn to help them be transformed in deeper ways. I wondered, “Is this all there is?”

No! I went to seminary to study how to disciple men better and found that there were many concepts and practices I did not know or do that could help men to be transformed at the deepest levels.

Then, yesterday I talked to a depressed man who was struggling to find usefulness in his retirement years. He was comfortable and had no external forces on him to do much of anything. He wondered, “Is this all there is?”

I said to him, “No! God has prepared many things for you to be and do in your retirement years.” “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God has prepared in advance that we should do” (Ephesians 2:10).

 

Why We Think That’s All There is

 

Many of us think that this is all there is because we have been deceived into believing the lies of the evil world under Satan’s control. “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

Satan tries to sell us a false narrative that life is largely meaningless, that Christianity is following the rules, and that we are over-the-hill when we retire. All of this narrative is false!

What the narrative misses is the loving, intimate relationship that God offers us to face and overcome the challenges of meaninglessness, ministry, and usefulness.

Yet, we tend to cling to the pain we know, afraid to venture out into the unknown fully controlled by Someone who loves us dearly and can move heaven and earth to help us. We prefer to believe, “Yes, that’s all there is.”

 

How To Pursue More

 

To pursue all there is, we must have the courage and be willing to take risks. Listen to this inspiring excerpt from a speech by President Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

May we never accept the lies of the world, but embrace the truth that Jesus promises us, “I have come that you may have a truly meaningful and fulfilling life” (John 10:10, paraphrased).

May we never believe, “That’s all there is.”

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Wouldn’t It Be Nice

I don’t believe that many of us Christians have a clear vision of how fulfilling and joyful our lives could be. Many of us settle for a lifestyle that is far below what it could be. But wouldn’t it be nice if our day-to-day living were more like this:

  • We experience a deep and enjoyable love relationship with God throughout the day. “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
  • We are not afraid so much because we rely on our good God to control the circumstances for our good. “Every good and perfect gift comes from God” (James 1:17, paraphrased).
  • We see God throughout the day in our devotions, people, circumstances, nature, etc. and feel guided, loved, and protected by him.
  • We are content with our lot in life knowing that God will change things in his time. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in (Philippians 4:12).
  • We live in the reality that “It’s okay to be me” and we don’t feel that we have to pretend. “God has made us always acceptable to him” (Hebrews 10:14, paraphrased).
  • We expect God’s love and favor throughout the day. “Surely God’s goodness and love will be my experience today” (Psalm 23:6, paraphrased).
  • We do things that are right for us and we are not pressured by others to do what they want us to do. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
  • We share the heaviness of our problems with God throughout the day, and receive his help as we ask for it. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden” (Matthew 11:28).
  • We don’t beat ourselves up when we fail to meet standards because God doesn’t. “I am gentle” (Matthew 11:29).

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could live like this all of the time.

And we can!

This lifestyle is God’s will for each of us as we cooperate with him to change us. “Be strong in experiencing God’s undeserved blessings” (2 Timothy 2:1).

Why settle for less?

Let’s not say that the cost is too high because God says, “When a person finds this kind of lifestyle, he pays any price to get it” (Matthew 13:46, paraphrased).

Let’s not say that we don’t want this lifestyle because God says that idols, achievements, praise and pleasures will not satisfy us anywhere near like he will (Mark 4:19; John 10:10).

And let’s not say that we want to depend on ourselves to make life work because we need God’s favor for life to work as described above (Jeremiah 17:5).

May I suggest that you ask God to help you picture what your day would be like today if you were living more in the lifestyle described above. Spend a couple of minutes imagining this reality.

Wouldn’t it be nice!

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Well, it’s that time again- time to make New Year’s Resolutions!

I have to admit that I am ambivalent about making them. I have often failed to achieve them and wonder if it’s even God’s will to make them. After all, doesn’t God already have my life planned out?

In the past, my New Year’s Resolutions have been my goals for the year. I had goals for every major area of my life. I like to plan so it was easy for me to make them. Yet, I wonder to this day if they did me much good.

So, why make goals?

The Scriptures support that God wants and expects us to plan and make goals. “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord, it will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).

One reason God wants us to plan is to see the danger ahead and take action before it is too late. “A prudent man sees evil and hides himself, the naïve proceed and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 27:12).

Another reason he wants us to set goals is because he wants us to set our sights on what he wants us to do. “Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

We are not wise to make whatever goals tickle our fancy. He has called each one of us to certain goals that he has planned for us to do. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

He doesn’t want us thrashing around chasing after every impulse of ours. He wants us to be like Paul who said, “I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air” (1 Corinthians 9:26).

Our “running” and “boxing” need to be directed towards God’s targets.

So, how do we make goals that are God’s goals?

One thing we could do is to commit the goal-setting process to him. ”Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him and he will do it” (Psalm 37:5). At the end of the goal-setting or New Year’s Resolution process we need to aim for our goals being his goals –they need to be what God wants to do in and through us during the new year.

We would be wise to always remember that, “apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We can do nothing of eternal value without our goals being his goals.

God usually guides us step by step. So, our goals may change some during the year. We need to ”Trust Him with all [our] heart and do not lean on [our] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5-6) as the year goes by. Our goals need to be the product of daily communion with God as we partner with him throughout the year to achieve them through his strength.

Are you going to set some goals or New Year’s resolutions? If you have decided to go ahead and set some goals, commit the process to God in prayer. Ask him to bring to your mind one goal he wants to either accomplish in you or through you during the year. Ask him what he wants you to do to cooperate with him in achieving this goal. Thank him for what he is going to do.

 

 

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Without a Vision

I recently challenged a group of people to go deeper with God in allowing him to transform them at the heart-level. I was shocked to hear a couple of them say that they did not want to do this. They did not want to be transformed at the heart-level.

I have always been puzzled by people who by their words or actions do not want to grow spiritually. I have always placed a high priority on growing spiritually throughout my Christian life. So, it is hard for me to understand those who do not want to grow.

Someone asked me a few nights ago why so few Christians want to leave their comfortable status quo and go on to a deeper journey with God. I told him that I thought this desire to go deeper with God is a gift that God gives to some. I also said that I think people fill their lives with substitutes for God that dull their hunger for him.

However, today, I thought of another reason. I think a lot of people lack vision. They really cannot imagine how wonderful their lives would be in the presence of God throughout the day. Below is an excerpt from my book, Experiencing God’s Transforming Love, which I wrote in hopes of capturing a glimpse of the wonderful biblical reality that would motivate them to go deep with God:

“Imagine living in the presence of Someone who is very strong, and who is head-over-heels in love with us. Imagine Someone whose smile slowly melts away our fears and tensions. Imagine Someone who is always there for us, but gives us space when we need it. Imagine Someone who will never reject us no matter how weak and unbelieving we are. Imagine Someone who enjoys being with us and delights in who we really are.”

Perhaps with this vision people may not be so reluctant to have their lives and reality transformed. Perhaps they will be drawn from their darkness into the light of an intimate love relationship with God that he so desires with each of them.

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God’s Love for Us

Imagine living in the presence of someone who is very strong, and who is head-over-heels in love with us. Imagine someone whose smile slowly melts away our fears and tensions, for “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Imagine someone who is always there for us, but gives us space when we need it. Imagine someone who will never reject us no matter how weak and unbelieving we are, for God says to us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). Imagine someone who enjoys being with us and delights in who we really are.

Such is the love that God has for us, his children. There are no strings attached to his love. He gives us his love as a gift. It is too good to be true, yet it is true. We can do nothing to cause God to stop loving us, and we can do nothing to cause him to love us more. His love is already as high as the heavens are above the earth (Psalm 103:11).

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